Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From the "So What Are We Going to Do About It" Department

As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, two studies on writing have reached a similar conclusion: students are writing much more outside of class and are much more vested in what they're writing outside of class than they are in their academic writing.

I don't think there is a single teacher out there who participates or observes the power of technology that doesn't already inherently know this. I also don't think there is a teacher out there who has seen students pass notes, keep journals or heard an amazing (unassigned) poem who doesn't know this. My question is what are we going to DO about it?

The Stanford Study of Writing is very interesting - both for the content as well as how it has been made available on the web. Unlike traditional academic writing that comes to us in reams of paper (my own bias - sorry!) this site is chunked accordingly and full of hyperlinks and graphics. Very compelling graphics! Very, very compelling graphics!

I wonder what a similar study of American high schools might yield? Of middle schools? Of elementary schools?

The NCTE paper on Writing in the 21st Century recognizes the challenges and opportunities we face as "people write as never before:"

1. developing new models of writing
2. designing a new curriculum supporting those models
3. creating models for teaching that curriculum

I am the first to admit that I don't know where to begin with this - except to think about how my own writing has changed over the past few years, reflect on my success and my struggles and to begin to integrate that into my work with teachers. But that is me - outside of the classroom. I am wondering how teachers are beginning, how administrators are beginning, how students are beginning.

So - what are we going to do about it?

Thursday, June 11, 2009


“Obtaining a small town surf shop had always been a dream of Callies and now that her mother was gone there were no excuses.”

Hardly going to be the next American novel but it is the first thing that popped into my head after playing with the Brainstormer – a random word generator that gives you three words/phrases to jump over writer’s block or stretch your creative muscles.

You can click the random button in the middle (which is waaay too much fun!) or spin each dial separately.

Not quite as fun – but definitely interesting is the back story to how this delightful idea generator was created.

Write on!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Combine a love of words with a love of social networking and what do you get? My favorite new obsession on the Internet: Wordnik!

Created by Erin McKean (editor in chief of the Oxford American Dictionary!), Wordnik is a dictionary that evolves as language does. Users can add new words and meanings, tag words with related expressions, see real-time search word results from both Twitter and Flickr AND discover how many Scrabble points a particular word is worth!! I haven't been able to stop going back to it each time I think of a new word to enter!

I started with searching the word "network" since I have been spending a great deal of time thinking and writing about social networks and technology. In addition to definitions, I got amazing (and somewhat wordy) examples from literature, I learned that at this moment the word had been looked up 16 other times so far, I saw it's use being updated in real time from Twitter, saw images with this tag in Flickr and what I loved most of all was this:

A chart of how often the word was used in a year!!! (Love the implications of the use of network gathered around the 21st century!!)

There is a great interview with Erin over on the TED Blog as it seems the idea for Wordnik came from her TED talk and came to life after that! When asked about linking to Twitter and Flickr as it didn't seem "immediately intuitive" she responded:

It’s funny because it’s completely intuitive to dictionary editors. How can we show how a word is really used? The other day I tried to find out if “pants” was being used as a suffix and I found a tweet for “awesomepants.” Twitter is like overhearing people’s conversations, which is exactly what dictionary editors have been wishing we could do for years.

Flickr -- well, if you’ve looked at dictionary illustrations you know that they tend to be uninteresting, and so small. With Flickr, you get a lot of abstractions too. What dictionary would have pictures of “honor”? When you look “honor” up on Wordnik, you get pictures of women named Honor, which tells you that it’s also used as a proper noun. You also get images of flags and different symbols of the military. Now you can see what feelings words evoke.

Go play - and tell us what you found interesting about the word you put in!!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

What Student Writing Teaches Us

A book after my own heart!

From the Stenhouse Blog: "Read Mark Overmeyer’s new book online before it is published in mid-July and then join Mark and your fellow teachers in discussing this new, exciting title during a four-stop blog tour. Participate in our writing contest and win a free, signed copy of the book."

Visit the Stenhouse blog to see the blog "tour stops" where you can leave questions and engage in coversation, as well as to see details on the very interesting contest!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Summer Reading Fun

Quick reminder if you are looking for ways to encourage kids to read this summer! Both Barnes & Noble and Borders are offering incentives for reading just eight books!!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Uh-Oh Commas Again!

After reading this, perhaps I better rethink my position on commas!